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Blog Tour! Blackbrooke II: The Guardian

Blackbrooke II: The GuardianBlackbrooke II: The Guardian by Emma Silver

I feel really privileged to be part of this blog tour. Released only this past Friday, The Guardian has already been charting in the top 20 of Amazon’s horror section.

To celebrate the release of The Guardian, Orange Pekoe Reviews has an exclusive character interview with Denzil Rathbone, owner of the shop Tales from the Crits:

What Blackbrooke rule do you find the hardest to follow?
They’re all a pile of crap. I suppose the one that confuses me is girls having to wear their hair tied up. I mean, I have dreads and they’re long so do I have to tie my hair up? The rule mentions girls but not boys. I don’t know, that’s a pretty boring answer. Let me think of something a bit cooler…Okay, I’d probably have to say its the ‘not going out at night’ rule. It would be great to head out in the dark and dice with death. I’ve sometimes thought about arming myself and taking them down, one by one. That’s a better answer, isn’t it? Forget what I said about hair.
After all your experiences with the Crits, are there any new rules or pieces of advice you think should be added for the residents?
Don’t underestimate them. They might look big and freaky but they’re fast and have zero conscience. Some of the things they do and the ways they kill are gruesome. It’s not a surprise they’re at the top of the food chain. In saying that, there should be another rule warning against trusting anyone in this town, humans included.
Do you think Mr Fuller’s Blackbrooke lessons at the Academy provide the children with enough realistic information?
Ha! Fuller as a teacher, I still can’t get my head around that. The dude was a Vigilante for gods sake. Unless he’s regaling them with tales of the little missions him and his group went on as teenagers then I doubt he’s teaching them anything. He came face to face with the Crits on more than one occasion that I know of but I can’t imagine he’s allowed to discuss that with the kids. Instead, I bet the lessons are as dry and dull as that book he wrote that I have to sell in the shop.
I really enjoy reading about your shop, Tales From the Crits. What items are your favourites? What items creep you out the most?
My favourites are probably the things that have nothing to do with Blackbrooke, like the pumpkin lollipops and the bobbing head pens. There’s a few cool dreamcatchers as well and the incense smells incredible. Unfortunately, that’s as good as it gets. The tourists love the Crit stuff but it’s vile and so anatomically incorrect it’s laughable. The kids books are the worst. The Crits are illustrated to look like massive teddy bears. There’s even a picture of a Lurker hugging a little girl in one of them. What they fail to show is that same Lurker ripping the little girls face off in the next scene.
Do you think it’s a good idea so many tour groups visit Blackbrooke? What advice would you have for these ‘adventure’ tourists?
Without the tourists I wouldn’t have a shop so I have to be grateful to them. I do think the numbers of tourists have increased in recent years though and that makes me nervous about some of them hiding out in Blackbrooke so they can stay overnight to see a Crit, Luckily, no tourists have been killed as a result, but I feel like its only a matter of time. If I were to offer them any advice it would be to always get on the coach at the end of the day. The Crits are not what they have in mind. Outsiders have a very naïve view of them.
You always look out for Liberty. Do you think it’s inevitable that her heart will always be torn between Cassius and Gabriel?
Oh, little Liberty Bell. She’s a handful. I actually feel sorry for Cassius and Gabriel, I really do. Firstly, I think they’re both off the chart bonkers for being interested in such an unhinged miniature maniac, and secondly, they like her more than she likes them. I think she’ll always have that problem. She’s not one of those ‘cutesy’ teenagers who loves the attention, it makes her uncomfortable. Plus, I’ve told her to wait until she’s thirty before even thinking about having another boyfriend. Makes me feel a lot better.
On a more personal note, I can’t help but think there are some mysterious elements to your past that you want to hide from people. Am I on the right track with this thought?
I don’t know whether there’s anything mysterious. I suppose there’s some pain from my past. My late teens and early twenties saw some really dark times. If you’ve had your heart broken you’ll understand. It’s difficult to talk about in any detail, even now. I hung out with the tourists for a good many years and used to get them to bring me any illegal substances from the Outside to numb the pain. Imagine losing the person you love the most to a person you detest. Then imagine you live in a tiny ass town with them and have to bear witness to their marital bliss on an almost daily basis. Not that it was bliss, I know that now but I didn’t at the time.
Finally, if you were able to leave Blackbrooke, where would you go? What would be your ‘escape’ soundtrack?
I’d get as far away as possible. I like the idea of travelling around Indonesia perhaps or maybe head to Australia. Who knows. I want sunshine, a beach and a pina colada. My soundtrack would be the one that’s remained my favourite for years: Best of the Eighties. You can’t beat a bit of Eighties pop. It’s not cool but I don’t care. I also like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who are probably also not seen as cool but that’s what floats my boat. Music, cocktail, beach, sunshine – just throw a certain lady in there and I don’t think you’d find a happier man. Oh, and probably Liberty Bell too. It wouldn’t be the same without her screaming at me to turn off the shit music.

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The Guardian picks up where the first book in the Blackbrooke trilogy ended. Liberty spends the first part of this book recalibrating all her knowledge of Blackbrooke and trying to work out exactly what is happening with the town. If you thought Mr Jones, Principal of the Blackbrooke Academy was a dubious character, wait until you meet Carl Evans, Director of the Blackbrooke Institute. When Liberty (and therefore you as a reader) finally gets her head around what is happening and a chance of freedom approaches, everything is spun around again. Who can Liberty trust?

The ending of this book is similar to the first in what seems to be typical Emma Silver style: you are left hanging and don’t know how you can wait another year for the final instalment!

If you are new to the world of Blackbrooke, you must read the books in order! You can read my review of the first book in the Blackbrooke trilogy here.

Meet the author Emma Silver at her blog here.

Still want more?

Twitter: @Emma_Silver and @Blackbrooke_I

Facebook: Facebook and Facebook fan page

Goodreads (Emma Silver page) and Goodreads (Blackbrooke page)

 

 

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Amazing YA Debut

Product Details Blackbrooke by Emma Silver

I had seen the marketing for Emma Silver’s Blackbrooke on Twitter and was intrigued by the premise: due to the town of Blackbrooke being harassed by dangerous Crits walking the streets at night, the area has been fenced off from the Outside. Blackbrooke residents must follow a series of rules which include staying inside after curfew and having triple glazed windows. The long nights make winter hard and ‘walk outs’ are inevitable. Seventeen year old Liberty Conner begins to notice some odd behaviour and patterns in Blackbrooke and seeks to find out the truth before time runs out. I had it at the top of my ‘to read’ list on an earlier blog about YA fiction (Dystopian Survival) and started reading it last Friday.

I was gripped from the first page of this novel and became annoyed when I had to take a break from reading it! I often have a YA book on the go that I can dip into every so often when I am busy but I have to say that I read this book in two sittings. I enjoy YA fiction. As an adult I realise I am not the target audience so I am often rather forgiving when plot weaknesses and somewhat predictable characters pop up. Much to my delight, I found none of these flaws in Blackbrooke.

Emma Silver has done a remarkable job of creating three-dimensional characters; each character is unique and believable. The relationships between the characters are also clear and thoughtful. There is an obvious personal history between the characters that has developed over the years as a result of living in such an insulated town. The imaginative plot also seemed believable. The only thing I did wonder about every so often when I took a brief break was, Unless I missed something, why didn’t the residents just vacate the town when the rules were established? However, once I got back to the story I forgot all about this! The author has also created a believable setting. The town of Blackbrooke is somewhere in the mysterious north of England. There are only about 10,000 residents and the feelings of claustrophobia and depression permeate the story, particularly when the dark winter nights close in. For an imaginative story there is a reasonable amount of social realism included.

Due to the more sophisticated writing style, some of the themes and the raunchy elements that are included, this is a book for older teens. It is one of the best books I have read recently and stands heads and shoulders above other YA books. Secondary school libraries should have it on their shelves and adults who are interested in trying YA fiction will probably find themselves pleasantly surprised. I look forward to the second book in the series that is due for release in the summer.

Blackbrooke: 5 Stars

Crooked Cat Publishing are clearly able to identify a great writer. Blackbrooke was the first book I read from this publishing house and I would now like to try a couple more of their books. I have added these three adult fiction books to my ‘to read’ list:

Product DetailsA Guide to Becoming Distinctively Average – Amy Elliott-Smith. Humour / Contemporary Fiction about a 30-something dog groomer questioning life.

Product DetailsDragon Ring – Maggie Secara. First in a Fantasy series about a reality TV host who owes the King of the Faeries a favour.

Product DetailsHow to Look Like You – Rose McClelland. A chick lit story about frenemies.

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Dystopian Survival

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

I once heard a comment that Lord of the Flies was like, Gone, but in Gone they get to eat people too. Ah, the horrors of dystopian futures! Are some older novels no longer timeless?

The sensation of The Hunger Games had me intrigued. I avoided reading it for a while in case fighting to the death proved too gory for my delicate constitution. However, once I started I couldn’t stoop. While I didn’t read the three books in quick succession, I did finish each of them in one sitting. The chapters always ended in such a way that I was lured into starting the next. I am someone who has from a young age enjoyed the idea of post-apocalyptic or chaotic worlds (Robert O’Brien’s Z for Zachariah, for instance) and Suzanne Collins didn’t disappoint. However,  I did feel that she had in some ways created a pastiche of ideas that had been used before. As I was reading, the following stories quickly came to mind:

  • Hatchet (Gary Paulson) and My Side of the Mountain (Jean George) both detail surviving in the wild. My concerns about gore in The Hunger Games were dismissed when I realised the bulk of the time in the arena is spent  finding food, shelter and water, and hiding from danger. Ultimately, The Hunger Games is an old fashioned survival story.
  • Tomorrow when the War Began – John Marsden. A 1990s YA war series about a group of teenagers in country Australia fighting to survive against the ruling army. Filled with weapons, danger, hunger and refugees. Is Ellie no longer bold enough to be a contemporary heroine?
  • The famous American gothic short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson describes  villagers being selected for a gruesome fate.
  • The cult Japanese movie Battle Royale (this one is according to my husband). Based on his descriptions, among other things the ‘giant clock’ in Catching Fire seems to resemble the destruction patterns in Battle Royale.

All this being said, I did enjoy the series and thought that movie was excellent. I only watched the movie this past weekend which is partly why I am inspired to write this blog today. The contrast between the Captial and District 12 was stunning to see. I did not expect the fashions in the Capital to resemble the ostentatious couture of the French Revolution and I was surprised that Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna was not more flamboyant! The Victorian poverty and dull colours in District 12 also added to the story. While both locations were described well in the novels, I felt that Suzanne Collins was not always convincing enough with the setting and SF elements. For example, some miracles of futuristic science and medicine seemed to solve plot problems too easily, while other storylines grew only because what you would imagine to be a simpler discovery was not yet made. There didn’t seem to be a pattern with the names either and it was not clear why certain people had Latin names and others did not.

My favourite of the three books is the third, Mockingjay. It is a darker book with cat and mouse elements. Some people I have spoken to found this book too unnerving but I found it was a nice break from the first two which had somewhat similar plots.

One other successful YA novel set in a dystopian future is Hollowland by Amanda Hocking. In a USA ravaged by war, the zombie threat means survivors are placed in secure facilities. Vigilantes and religious cults have bunkered down and stockpiled arms.  Remy is separated from her brother and, carrying a family secret, she travels across the country to find him. I found this novel to be convincing throughout, even with the random sounding inclusions of a pop star and a tame lion. It is a little short at 290 pages but it is sharp throughout. Hocking has avoided padding out the story – a skill by which all authors should abide. Hollowland should have a wider reputation than it currently does. It is only available as an ebook so this may be why.

Similar YA  dystopian books at the top of my to read list:

And two more, perhaps suited to adults:

If you have any more suggestions please get in touch.